Jul 29, 2016

Natural MSG - Stir Fry Cabbage with Shio Kombu (Salted Dried Seaweed)

MSG, monosodium glutamate, is one of the common seasonings especially used in Asian cuisine. It acts like an umami enhancer but ingesting a large amount of MSG can cause thirstiness, headaches, and other unpleasant reactions.

I've always have doubts in such seasonings, especially any kind of flavor enhancer, more like a short cut, in powder form. Instead, the MSN was replaced by dried ingredients such as mushroom, seaweed, seafood, and cheeses in my kitchen. Bringing out the flavors from some of these natural ingredients might not be as easy as simply dropping a small spoonful or two MSG to the dishes, but the result is rewarding, perhaps healthier too.

In the case of shio kombu, which is Japanese salted dried seaweed, all you need to do is adding it to the dish, just as easy as using MSG. Of course I'm sticking with shio kombu and tossing that bag of tiny white particles of MSG away.

Stir fry cabbage with shio kombu (salted dried seaweed) -


  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 8 to 10 shiitake mushroom
  • 1 small to medium carrot
  • 1/2 tablespoon shio kombu
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds (options)


Cut the cabbage into large pieces, trim off or slice the tough center section if needed. Peel and slice the carrot. Trim off the mushroom stems then slice the caps. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Trim off the chili stems then slice diagonally.

Drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in garlic slices, chilies and salt. Cook till the garlic turns slightly browned but not burnt.

Turn to high heat and quickly add in the shiitake mushroom, give it a quick stir to prevent garlic from burning, about one minute. Add in carrot and cabbage.

Wait till the cabbage wilts and the size reduces by half, add in shio kombu. 

Keep stir-frying all the ingredients. Every shio kombu comes in different saltiness level, so it's better to taste the stir-fry and adjust with salt once the cabbage reaches desired texture.

Garnish with toasted white sesame seeds.

So what other non-dried natural ingredients can be used to substitute MSG or high in umami? Try flavorful mushrooms, cheese rinds, shellfish, and yeast products.

Other recipes using shio kombu:

Jul 25, 2016

Tofette Pasta with Ground Chicken and Cream of Mushroom

Cream of mushroom and chicken soup are probably two of the most common western canned ingredients in my kitchen. By itself, cream of mushroom can be bland. However, with additional ingredients and seasonings, cream of mushroom actually serves as a more flavorful binding agent compared to heavy whipping cream. 

This recipe calls for tofette pasta, a type of medium sized shell shaped pasta. You can substitute with other similar sized varieties such as macaroni, casarecce, farfalle, and fusilli. 

Tofette pasta with ground chicken and cream of mushroom -

Ingredients (for 4 to 5 portions)?

  • 1 bag/500 grams tofette pasta
  • 6 smoked sausages
  • 1 cup frozen mixed peas/carrot/corn
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 0.4 to 0.5 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black or rainbow pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon mixed Italian seasoning


Peel and cube the onion. Cut the sausages into smaller bite size pieces. Zest one lemon, you can even save some freshly squeezed lemon juice if a more sourish taste is preferred. 

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and well seasoned with few pinches of salt. Add in the pasta and cook till al dente, drain well and set aside for later use.

Drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of a big pan or a nonstick pot. Add in chopped onion along with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Give it a quick stir and cool till the edges of the onion turned browned but not burnt, add in ground chicken.

Stir and separate the ground chicken with spatula into smaller piece. Once about half way cooked through, add in smoked sausages, frozen vegetable cubes, and dried Italian seasoning. Cook for one minute. 

Pour in cream of mushroom and lemon zest, maybe juice of 1/2 lemon if preferred. Mix and cook for another minute or two, add in the tofette pasta. Mix and make sure every pasta is well coated with the sauce.

Sprinkle some more freshly ground pepper and serve with Tabasco on the side. 

Little note here, try to stick with heavier tasting sausages to balance off lighter flavored chicken and cream of mushroom.

Other recipes using medium/smaller sized pasta: